In San Diego I had the joy to see Rachel LaBarre again. Rachel had been an art major at the CU Boulder when I began this project and she was assigned to me as an intern in the fall of 2007. In exchange for 100 hours of work on BETTER ANGELS, Rachel received 3 class credits. She graduated the next year and this week in San Diego was the first time I’ve seen her since and the first time she had seen any of the paintings.
In the end, Rachel spent more than 100 hours preparing the blocks of wood for painting. First she drilled a hole through the center of each cut block, then skewered the wood onto all-thread metal rods with a washer in between as a spacer so the fire could creep around the edges. At my friend Ed’s log yard in Colorado, we used his acetylene torch to burn the blocks. That was the easy (and fun) part. After that, the blocks were removed, a smaller block of wood was glued to the back of each piece and the back was spray painted black, partly to help hold the fragile burned wood in place. Then each drill hole had to be filled in from the front with a wood putty and sanded smooth. Finally Rachel painted a clear sanding sealer on the unburned portion of each block as a ground for painting, because the oil paint could not go directly on the wood.
Susie Nicols of Firehouse took the chance to interview Rachel and ask her about the experience.
Rachel remembered things I had forgotten about the process, but one comment in particular stood out for me. She said that the burns on each block of wood were as individual as the faces painted on them. Simple but true.
Thank you again, Rachel. You did a wonderful meticulous job and I am very grateful.